So This Is What A Kia Optima Hybrid Is Really Like – Final Impression

Hi, I’m Charis Michelsen. I write about cars (among other important things). I’ve got a Kia Optima hybrid (there’s a giant robot joke in here somewhere, I’m sure) lurking in my parking spot this week. I have been playing with it to see what it would and would not do. Technicalities about the car, if you’re curious, are in the first post.

I have now returned the car, and (despite the flashy, flashy rims) I was sad to see it go. It was super fun.

Because Details Are Important

Blind Spot Visibility: It is possible that I complained about blind spot visibility early on, and the Optima does kind of have a large C-pillar. Once I got used to it, though (which took all of two days), there was no problem. Visibility ok!

Road Noise: What road noise?  …no, seriously, it was quiet. Super quiet. The ICE was quiet, it was silent in EV mode, and there wasn’t a lot of noise from outside (well, until I opened the windows, anyway).

Media: Okay, I put music on my phone just so I could test that feature, and had a very frustrating drive out to Rockford trying to poke all the buttons and figure out why it wasn’t working. Turns out that you have to hit the “media” button twice, FYI. (Which, I might add, is in the manual. Read the manual, guys. It’s helpful.)

Kia Optima Hybrid: Performance vs. Mileage

Over the course of seven days, I drove the Optima 629 miles. I drove on the tollway, the interstate, local highways, in Chicago city traffic, in Rockford city traffic, and through various parts of the Northwest Suburbs.  During that time, the Optima averaged around 32mpg.

Looking at the car purely from a fuel-saving point of view, I’m not that impressed. Once I take into account that it also accelerates enthusiastically, handles really well (not floaty or twitchy at all but not overly tight either), and happily hangs out in the left lane doing 80mph for miles at a time, I actually kind of am. Impressed, that is.

I do not have a pic of this, because it would be irresponsible of me to be fiddling with my phone while attempting to accelerate around a semi, but the Optima hybrid does use both the ICE and the electric motor if you’re really trying to suddenly speed up. (Because the semi is actively trying to kill you, apparently, or is that just me?)

The Kia Optima hybrid was neither brilliantly fast or brilliantly fuel-efficient, but it compromises well between the two. I really liked that. It’s also a comfortable environment for lots of driving (I was not sick of sitting in it by the end of the week).

I definitely walked away from this with a net positive impression.

PS – Remember the Classic iPod?

There’s a cord for connecting Apple devices, and I was given one with the car, and I plugged it into the iPod. That up there happened for a while, and I was already composing snarky commentary in my head about lack of backwards compatibility. And then!

Full points, Kia – not only did it actually properly interface with my ancient, ancient iPod, but it also properly displays Chinese, Japanese, and Korean text. Kia has put a lot of attention into the details, and I really appreciated that.

Until next time!

About the Author

spent 7 years living in Germany and Japan, studying both languages extensively, doing translation and education with companies like Bosch, Nissan, Fuji Heavy, and others. Charis has a Bachelor of Science degree in biology and currently lives in Chicago, Illinois. She also believes that Janeway was the best Star Trek Captain.
  • Windsor Sterling

    Let me start off by stating that I think the Kia Optima Hybrid (2012) is a beautiful car. I paid $32,000.00 for my Kia at Century Kia in Tampa Florida. My salesman was Jesus Perez and the General Sales Manager at this dealership is Mr. Hector Proenza. 
    During the first month of driving my new Kia Optima Hybrid, my average miles per gallon did not appear to be more than a mile or two off per gallon off the estimated MPG displayed on the window sticker.
    However, as the first month went by, I noticed that the center console screen was displaying that I was averaging 40 MPG and up, however, the instant average miles per gallon (displayed on the dash display) stated I was receiving and average of 29 to 31 miles per gallon – huh? 
    I began to keep a log as to how many gallons I was putting into the car by filling up the car (not over filling) and setting the Trip A meter to zero. I would then drive the car down (until nearly empty) and then fill the car up. I would then divide the number of gallons pumped into my car by the number of miles displayed on the Trip A meter. 
    My average miles per gallon were totaling no more than 27.9 miles per gallon consistently. 
    In fact, on every fill up (I currently have 7800 miles on the car) no gauge in the car has ever stated the correct gas mileage (MPG) since the car was purchased. The center console screen states one thing, the instant economy gauge states another and, the simple math division test basically (logically) states the CORRECT gas mileage, which is not off by a few miles per gallon but, by many. 
    When I say MANY, I mean WAY too many. 
    The sticker states 35 MPG on the highway and in the city I should be enjoying 40 MPG. The end result is that when I purchased this car, my salesman (and the General Manager) raved about the mileage, as I traded in my Prius, which delivered 48 MPG consistently. 
    There was NEVER a time in my Prius when any of the MPG display gauges did NOT state the correct gas mileage. 
    Let’s not forget that I came out of a Prius and KNOW how to milk a hybrid for every mile it can get and, quite frankly, I’m astounded at the TV commercial touting the 64.55 MPG from the two knuckleheads who went a across the United States. They claim that they drove 7,899 miles over two weeks in a Kia Optima Hybrid (with no special modifications) and claimed to achieve an ASTOUNDING 64.55 miles per gallon. Interesting that Guinness granted and verified this world record. 
    Okay, one would think that a car that could get into the Guinness Book of World Records for achieving such a feat (64.55 miles per gallon, which has been verified) is believable, right?
    No, one would be WRONG! 
    I don’t know what conditions this car achieved 64+ MPG and quite frankly, I certainly don’t believe a word of this nonsense, as I can’t get this car to break 30 MPG under any condition. I have driven without air, without the radio on, without the air conditioned seats running and, mastered the glide to red lights and slow start ups at green lights. I have coasted and rolled my way – not into the record books – but, back to the car dealership where they stated they have NO clue what’s wrong with this car. In fact, the best they could do was disconnect the battery in the trunk and let the computer reset itself. This did nothing but allow me the honor of installing my contact list back into the on board telephone book. 
    I called Century Kia many times concerning the MPG problem and there was no help so, I called Kia Motors directly and they offered me help through a service called Tech Line. You get a case number and they use this number to ensure that you indeed get help through the dealership. 
    I called Century Kia and their Service Manager did not offer any and in fact, he seemed perturbed that I got tech line involved in my case and told me that they would have my car for a number of days and, if tech line could not walk their service people through solving the problem with my car, they would then send a specialized mechanic in from their hybrid division. Here’s the rub. On the day I’m to bring the car into them, I asked for a loaner car and the service manager told me that would take days to get approved and he basically hung up the phone on me. Not nice, not professional. 
    It turns out Kia wants me to pay for a rental car while they figure out why their car does NOT get the gas mileage they have stated on the sticker of the car. One would think that if you’re going to sell a car based on claiming a World Record and, repeatedly selling consumers on buying the car based upon the MPG, then it should be within a slight margin of error.  
    In my case, the margin of error is six to ten miles per gallon (or more) and that’s NOT a slight error, that amounts to fraud – plain and simple.  
    Let’s keep in mind, I purchased a Hybrid as I thought I would get near 38 MPG and could even milk it a bit more, however, the guys selling me on this car could have been related to Joe Isuzu telling me this car would go 300 miles per hour – downhill in hurricane – of course. 
    I (as many) work WAY too hard for my money and I will not be scammed, deceived and lied to. Yesterday (November 1st) Kia Tech Line called me to ask a whole bunch of questions about the MPG issue in my Hybrid (and that of my neighbor’s Hybrid) and today, well, you all landed yourselves in a Washington Post article that simply tells me you KNEW all along about this LIE. 
    Don’t even think of offering the difference back in a gas card, as I bought this car for everything it was advertised to be and that includes the stated gas mileage. 
    Do you own a KIA and thought you were going crazy when trying to figure out why your MPG was not correct and/or averaging out through simple math? Email your story.